In February 1947, Randal Kelly, a native of County Clare, Ireland, was hired as a bartender at 500 Westport Road, an establishment then called Westport Inn and owned by three retired Kansas City, Missouri police captains, Brock, Ghent and Zahner. Randal's witty sense of humor, unpretentious attitude and giving hand won him great popularity and it wasn't long before people were calling the place Kelly's. Randal was partners with Art Brock until Art died in 1977. In June of that year, the bar was officially named Kelly's Westport Inn. Randal passed away in 1988 and his two sons, Kyle and Pat, now run the joint.
The building that Kelly’s occupies is said to be the oldest in Kansas City. Built in 1850, it has housed a wide range of businesses, most notably in the 19th century, the building was a provisioning and outfitting operation of Albert Boone, a grandson of Daniel Boone. There, covered wagons stopped to stock up before the long trek out West along the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails. In honor of its rich and colorful past, the building was designated a national historic landmark in 1959.
Today, family-owned and operated, Kelly's Westport Inn is a must see in Kansas City. With a diverse crowd, live music, a colorful history, weekday specials and always someone with a good story, Kelly's is an Irish pub like no other!
1850-1851: George and William Ewing built the building that is now Kelly's.
1864: Albert Boone purchases the store in January. Throughout the 1800s the building continues to be run as a merchantile/trading business under various owners. This included a drug store, grocery and hardware store. There have been rumors that the building may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. However, this is unlikely because Westport was never inhabited by abolistionists. Also, its close proximity to Kansas territory makes it an unlikely waiting room for fugitive salves.
Pre 1890: At some point before 1890 the extention of the back of the building was added. When this occured exactly is unknown.
1892: The building is owned by Meriweather and Sons.
1903: The building is sold to the Wiedenmann Bros. John F. and Jake C. Wiedenmann run Wiedenmann Brother Grocery Store for 20+ years.
1934: A liquor license is issued to the building under "The Wrestlers Inn." They featured live wresting and from what we know a rather wild after hours club. This was post prohibition and the building has housed a saloon/bar ever since.
1947: Randal Kelly is hired on as a bartender at what was then called "Westport Inn."
1959: The building was designated a national historic landmark.
1977: Randal's partner, Art Brock, passes away and the name of the business is officially changed to "Kelly's Westport Inn."
1988: Randal Kelly passes away.
1995: Two of Randal's sons, Kyle and Pat, purchase the building from the Wiedenmann family. George Wiedenmann Sr.'s ashes can be seen in a Ten High bottle above the front bar.
2010: In March Kelly's adds the rooftop deck.
Today: Pat and Kyle still own the building and the business. Two of Kyle's children, Colleen and Mitch, help run the joint.
Michael Leahy worked at Kelly's from 1968-1977. He was a dear friend of the Kelly's and also the executive director of Welcome House, a halfway house for recovering alcoholics.
When Leahy passed away in 2002, Welcome House had his golf shoes bronzed as a tribute to Kelly's for their support of the House. When asked later in life what helped him Leahy replied, "First, my friends, especially the Kelly family, were always there for me, believed in me and never gave up on me. Second, I knew that when I died, I wanted others to remember me as a good person- someone who made a difference."
Leahy's legacy lives on in the countless number of people he helped.